An article in the current issue of Southwest Fly Fishing magazine really caught my attention. The article is a full-length, destination feature about fly fishing on Lower Oak Creek in Arizona. I've spent a ton of time on Oak Creek, but only on the upper reaches where a quality trout fishery exists.
I've spent very little time exploring Oak Creek downstream of Sedona...or even downstream from Grasshopper Point for that matter. The reason for this is simply that as the stream moves downstream of these locations it transitions into a warm water fishery.
As I expected, the article discussed the smallmouth bass fishery of Lower Oak Creek. What I didn't expect was the article's declaration that this portion of the creek (from Cornville to Sedona) holds, "A surprising number of streamer chasing browns". Hmm. I don't have the article in front of me at the moment, but I seem to remember it even thew out a mention of the author catching 5lb trout here every year!
A few years ago I was told by a local fisheries biologist that a self sustaining population of browns used to exist in Oak Creek as far downstream as Red Rock Crossing, but that a variety of factors (drought, canopy loss, sedimentation, etc.) had combined to make the lower portion of the creek inhospitable to trout. He went on to tell me that the downstream terminus of wild (stream born) trout habitat on Oak Creek these days is Grasshopper Point...give or take a couple of miles depending on water conditions from year to year.
An interesting part of the Lower Oak Creek trout equation is Page Springs. This is a large (24 cfs), 68 degree spring that enters the creek well downstream of Sedona. The spring provides the water source for Page Springs Fish Hatchery. At 68 degrees, the spring's water temperature is right at the upper temperature threshold for trout, but is certainly within it. The hatchery cranks out upwards of 700,000 trout per year (mostly rainbows), making it Arizona's largest cold water hatchery.
Yesterday I was traveling from Flagstaff to Phoenix and just happened to have a fly rod and streamer box in the truck. A short detour found me driving along Page Springs Road as it followed the twists and turns of Oak Creek. Due to the infusion of cool water from the spring, I figured that this was as good a place as any to look for browns on Lower Oak Creek. Long story short, I never wet a line. Access was practically non-existent between Page Springs and Cornville - and what's more, the water was running off color from recent rain.
The mystery remains. I'd love to hear if anyone out there has caught a brown from Oak Creek, below Sedona, within the last 10 years - in case you can't tell, I'm highly skeptical.